What College Preparation? A case of praxis deficiency


What College Preparation? A case of praxis deficiency

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I never considered my academic training to be a failure, in fact, I quite enjoyed my doctoral training in clinical psychology at a rather prestigious Canadian university. Therefore, I was somewhat taken aback when my advisers’ references were relayed to prospective employers with a “so sad that he didn’t make it into academia” tone.


The sentiment was even more astonishing because I had absolutely no interest in pursuing a research agenda in academia. Just the opposite, I had been attracted to clinical psychology to become a practicing therapist. Nonetheless, to many of my professors at the time, I was doomed to becoming just another clinical hack doing work that any semi-articulate or empathetic person could easily accomplish.


Many years have past since those initial comments were made, and ironically, besides becoming a rather accomplished clinical hack, I have also taught therapy and assessment courses to clinical students at the doctoral level for the last thirty years. Despite the passing years, in my experience, clinical training is still viewed as something of a secondary mission by many accredited doctoral programs in psychology.


Since my own practice specializes in workplace problems, I have come to see that this divide between how a profession is taught in university versus how it is practiced- theory versus praxis- is not confined to my discipline.


I recently saw a seasoned architect, anther graduate of a prestigious university, who stated that university ill-prepared him for the challenges of his world of work. With the university’s emphasis upon creative design of inspiring museums and office towers, little time is devoted to the real challenges – how to deal with contractors with more jobs offers than time, tradespeople who fail to deliver upon promises and clients who demand and then suddenly fade away when payment is due.


My architect client is not alone in his complaints. I have seen many litigation lawyers who have to learn the psychological demands of their daily professional life on their own. How to deal with angry adversaries, how to think on your feet under pressure, how not to be swamped by your own anger, are only some of the crucial challenges that determine success in the courtroom. My lawyer clients reported that none of these topics were even mentioned, yet alone taught, in the classroom.


I feel that some professional disciplines do a better job at preparing their young. Medicine is a prime example, possibly because the majority of the teaching, at least after first year, is conducted by hospital-based clinicians. In contrast, many law, psychology and architecture professors have probably not seen a living client in many years. All the more reason that curriculum planning in many disciplines expand its scope to consider the core psychological demands of each practice.


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